Saturday, June 8, 2013

Mastery of Design: Edward VII's Cigarette Case, 1903

Cigarette Case
Presented to King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, 1903
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The Dowager Tsarina Marie Feodorovna presented this Fabergé cigarette case of three-color gold, rose-cut diamonds and a cabochon ruby to her brother-in-law King Edward VII in March 10, 1903 to mark the fortieth wedding anniversary of His Majesty and Her Majesty Queen Alexandra. The exuberantly elegant case takes a gently rounded rectangular shape—shining with red, yellow and white gold, (a favorite combination of Carl Fabergé) in a brilliant sunburst design. This pattern radiated around the combined cipher of King Edward and Queen Alexandra. The cipher, and on the reverse, the date, “10 March 1903 XL 1863–1903” are all set in diamonds.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Famous (or Infamous) Fabergé Cigarette Case, 1908

Cigarette Case
Enamel, Diamonds, Gold
The Royal Collection

Ah, the Royals are a sophisticated bunch, really. In 1908, the Honorable Mrs. George Keppel (Alice, also the great-grandmother of Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall) presented this cigarette case of two-color gold, guilloché enamel, brilliant and rose-cut diamonds by Fabergé to King Edward VII. You see Alice was the favorite of the King’s many mistresses. I wonder if it was because she had good taste in cigarette cases.

One of Fabergé’s finest examples of the Art Nouveau style, the case features a sinuous diamond-set snake which wraps around both the front and reverse of the box. It’s quite striking set against one of the most spectacular enamel colors in the history of Fabergé. Of course, the design was not purely decorative. A snake biting its own tale was a symbol of unrelenting and eternal love. A sweet gesture had it not come from the King’s mistress.

And, here comes the odd part. This is one of the only items in the Royal Collection to be presented to the Crown twice. You see, in 1910, shortly after the death of King Edward VII, his widow, Queen Alexandra, gave the case back to Alice Keppel. Some say she gave it back so she wouldn’t be reminded, some insist she returned it quite amicably so that Mrs. Keppel would have a memento of the late King. Since Alexandra knew of Edward’s many lady friends, she was certainly acquainted with Alice. So, who knows her real reasons?

Twenty-five years later, in 1936, Mrs. Keppel presented the same case to Queen Mary (who doubtlessly admired it and who had an impressive collection of her own Fabergé), to make sure that the case would always have Royal ownership.

Very sophisticated.

Unusual Artifacts: Left hand of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales

Left hand of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales
Later King Edward VII
Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This curious object is a plaster cast of the left hand of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII, r. 1901-1910), the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It was made in England between 1862-1876 by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834-1890). This item was given to the V&A by executors of the sculptor’s estate in 1892 along with a series of casts of hands of notable persons.

Boehm created a number of works associated with the Prince of Wales, perhaps most notably the monumental sculpture of the Prince on horseback which was erected in 1879 in Bombay, India. This casting shows exact detail of the Prince’s left hand, including a ring on the third finger.

At the Music Hall: I've Danced With a Man Who Danced With a Girl who Danced with the Prince of Wales, 1927

He danced with a girl who danced with a man who married the Prince of Wales.

I've danced with a man, who's danced with a girl, who's danced with the Prince of Wales.
It was simply grand, he said "Topping band" and she said "Delightful, Sir"

Glory, Glory, Alleluia! I'm the luckiest of females
For I've danced with a man, who's danced with a girl, who's danced with the Prince of Wales.
My word I've had a party, my word I've had a spree
Believe me or believe me not, it's all the same to me!
I'm wild with exultation, I'm dizzy with success
For I've danced with a man, I've danced with a man-
Well, you'll never guess
I've danced with a man, who's danced with a girl, who's danced with the Prince of Wales.
I'm crazy with excitement, completely off the rails
And when he said to me what she said to him -the Prince remarked to her
It was simply grand, he said "Topping band" and she said "Delightful, Sir"
Glory, Glory, Alleluia! I'm the luckiest of females;
For I've danced with a man, who's danced with a girl, who's danced with the Prince of Wales.

“I've Danced with a Man, who's Danced with a Girl, who's Danced with the Prince of Wales” was written in 1927 by Herbert Farjeon at the height of the popularity of Edward, Prince of Wales – eldest son of King George V and Queen Mary. Such celebrity for a Prince of Wales was unprecedented to that date and “David” (as he was known to the family) loved every minute of it. Of course, he went on to be one of the greatest disappointments in Royal history when he chose American two-time divorcee and rumored lady-boy Wallis Simpson over the throne, breaking his mother’s heart in what I call “The Abdication Kerfuffle” ™ and what is more normally called, “The Abdication Crisis.”

The girl that inspired the song is thought to be one Edna Deane--a ballroom dancing champion of the era. The song, notably, was used as the theme for the 1978 ITV television series “Edward & Mrs. Simpson” which is a lot of fun to watch, but frustrating because it is so very pro-David. Nonetheless, thank God for the while Kerfuffle because without it, World War II would have had quite a different end.

Speaking of the Abdication Kerfuffle ™, we’ve commemorated the whole mess with a rather charming line of products available exclusively in our online store.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square will Continue on Monday

Hello all!  After a period of hectic times, I'm settling back into my usual pattern.  So, Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square will be back to the usual six chapters a week starting on Monday.

Oh, and have we got some surprising things ahead!  Between weddings and warring, there's a lot coming!

See you Monday!

Unfolding Pictures: The Reading Fan, 1870

The Reading Fan
England, 1870
Presented to Queen Alexandra when Princess of Wales
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Made in England in 1870, this attractive fan features a paper leaf with mother-of-pearl sticks and guards and a chased gold loop. This fan, from the Royal Collection, was once owned by Queen Alexandra (“Bertie, I can’t hear you”), Consort of fuzzy man-about-town King Edward VII.

The fan was presented to Alexandra (1844-1925) while she was still the Princess of Wales. She was, in fact, the Princess of Wales for a really long time since her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria, lived almost forever and Edward didn’t ascend the throne until 1901. The Mayor and Corporation of Reading presented the fan to the Princess of Wales one hundred forty-two years and one day ago on July 1, 1870, on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone of Reading School by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). The date is inscribed on the verso.

The new school at Reading was designed by Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905). The structure replaced one that had been founded by Henry VII. Along with the presentation of the fan to the Princess to commemorate the occasion was to be an address by the Reading Mayor. However, much to the Princess’ relief—since she probably couldn’t have heard a word of it anyway—the address was not read aloud, but rather presented in a novel way.

The speech had been reduced by photography (a technology which very much fascinated Alexandra, a known shutterbug), and was mounted in a delicately carved mother-of-pearl and gold frame. This was tied by a ribbon terminating in a gold and blue enamel “A,” to the gold fan loop along with a solid gold vinaigrette adorned on one side with the coronet and monogram of the Princess, and, on the other an inscription commemorating the date.

The fan leaf, inscribed MARCUS WARD DELT. and HOWELL JAMES & CO. is painted, in the center with two intertwined letters—“A”—surmounted by the Prince of Wales’s coronet. Flanking this are views of Reading School and Reading Abbey, with the arms of Reading and of the Princess of Wales. All of this, as well as a miniature version of the fan—was presented in a fitted box. Sadly, only the large fan remains—the vinaigrette, frame, ribbon and miniature fan having since been divorced from the original set and, consequently, lost. I would guess they’re somewhere in Sandringham in a drawer along with a bunch of other things which Alexandra—when Queen—squirreled away. 

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: King Edward VII’s Stickpin

Gold, enamel, brilliant-cut diamonds
The Royal Collection

Over the years, we’ve taken a look at my collection of antique stickpins, but I’m not the only person who has collected them. Queen Mary also put together a collection of stickpins owned by British monarchs.

For example, here’s a beautiful pin which had belonged to King Edward VII—Mary’s father-in-law. This masterpiece of gold, enamel and brilliant diamonds was made for the King by Eduard Schramm in 1901. It is adorned with his crowned cipher in diamonds.

This pin was a favorite of the King’s. After his death, Mary of Teck made sure that his personal jewelry was preserved as part of the Royal Collection.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Mastery of Design: Her Majesty’s Aquamarines

The Royal Collection

Queen Elizabeth II, among her many treasures, is the owner of a fine collection of aquamarines which have been given to her as gifts throughout her life.  One piece of exceptional quality is this stunning aquamarine brooch.  Set in gold and platinum, blazingly white diamonds surround an impressive emerald-cut aquamarine.  This brooch was given to the Queen (along with a matching bracelet) in 1958 by The Brazilian government to complete a set of gorgeous aquamarines they had given her for her 1953 coronation.

Unusual Artifacts: Schichtl Marionettes Flower Seller, c. 1900

Trick Puppet
Wizard from Kasperle
The Schichtl Marionette Company, Germany, c. 1910
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in Germany around 1910, this marionette is part of a group from the Schichtl Marionette Company. He’s part of the “Kasperle” tradition and is, at first glance, the character of “The Wizard.” But, there’s more than meets the eye. He’s a “trick puppet.” He can transform from the wizard into a dwarfish flower seller.

The puppet features a carved and painted wooden face with glass eyes, wooden hands, leather-clad feeties, a horsehair moustache, beard and wig.

While the wizard, he carries a wand, wears a long cream silk crepe robe with a silk collar. Appliqué black felt and velvet magical symbols adorn the silk robe while skull and crossbone motifs decorate his conical silk hat.

Concealed under the silk robe, is the flower-seller. This dwarf puppet wears a white cotton shirt, green and yellow belt and braces, red cotton knee-length breeches and tan stockings. The flower seller holds a metal lamp in his right hand and a wooden bucket of silk flowers on his head—as one does. 

Drawing of the Day: The Russell Square Puppet Show, 1827

Click on image to enlarge
View of Russell Square with a Puppet Show
Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1827
The British Museum

This drawing of pen and brown wash on paper dates to 1827 and is the work of Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. The scene gives us a view of Russell Square with the statue of the Duke of Bedford prominent on the left. 

In the square, a crowd has gathered to watch a puppet show. The bottler draws attention to the show by beating a large drum. His efforts clearly work because we see that a mother will two children are about to join the crowd.

This drawing was once part of the collection of Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford. It gives us a rare topographical representation of a part of London which has changed considerably over time.

Mr. Punch's Puzzles: The Riddle of the Week

Once, again, Mr. Punch, with my help, is offering up a true Victorian riddle.  The first person to answer correctly--by posting in the comments--will receive public congratulations.  

So, here's this week's riddle.  We ask that you don't Google the answer.  Mr. Punch would not find that sporting at all.  Give it a shot and see what you can come up with.  Here we go... No cheating...

Elizabeth, Elsbeth, Betsy and Beth all went out to find a bird's nest.  They each found one, with one egg in it.  How many eggs did they find?

And the answer is...


Those are all variations of the same name, so, it's the same person.  Spoooooky.  Great answers today!  So great, in fact, I decided to close the contest a little early.  I look forward to the continued cleverness next week with another Friday edition of Mr. Punch's Puzzles!

Mr. Punch wants you to always know “the way to do it,” so why not check out our “That’s the way to do it!” products which are available only at our online store.  

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 338

Chapter 338

Several days had passed.  Happy days, the sort of which Punch had long despaired would not return to No. 65.  Lennie found herself being ardently pursued by the Earl of Cleaversworth and finally began to feel comfortable with the attentions of the gentleman.  He'd visited the house many evenings, first for a dinner invitation, next during the "At Homes" that Lennie had taken to hosting, and, then, on random evenings to not only engage Lennie in sentimental chat, but also to speak of food and books and history with Robert and Punch.  Punch had grown more comfortable with Matthew, too, and slowly let his true personality show, but not so much as to compromise his sister's courtship.

Matthew had already mentioned hearing from a friend of Roger's mad shamble through London, and Punch was cautious to see that the earl did not perceive his sister as being tied to a variety of madmen.

Furthermore, Punch found himself feeling stronger, finally recovering from Fern's administration of the overdose of sleeping tonic in his water.  He played with Colin and Dog Toby, teased Lennie and enjoyed the company of Robert.  Yet, over it all still hung the palid gloom of the fact that Fern was still in the clutches of Orpha and Ulrika, and, worse, that Orpha and Ulrika were so nearby.  The daily reports from Johnny Donnan--cleverly left behind a loose brick in the mews--helped soothe Punch and Robert inasmuch as it gave insight into the bizarre workings of Hamish House.  Still, Punch worried for Fern.  He knew also that Lennie had similar leanings, and, even Robert had expressed concern for the girl.

As time went by, and the sting of Fern's actions had softened, they realized that the troubled child acted in bizarre ways because she knew no better.  Robert, who had long been the girl's biggest detractor, even admitted as much.  Still, they had to follow the Queen's plan.  To try to send messages to Fern--some sign of hope--through Johnny would have been disastrous.  And, so, they left it as it was, each thinking about the girl privately in their own way.

Otherwise, the thoughts both above and below stairs were increasingly cheerful as the day of Gerard's and Gamilla's wedding grew closer.  

Violet, Ethel and Maudie were all giggles and smiles as they helped Gamilla with little things for her trousseau.  Gamilla tried to restrain herself, but the light from within her was very bright indeed, so much so that even Ruthy--who rarely said a word to anyone--was in high spirits.

The lines of rank faded in the evenings as Lennie frequently joined the other girls downstairs.  One could almost smell orange blossoms around the smiling group.

Similarly, Gerard's smile was infectious.  He took the teasing from Charles and Georgie in stride and walked brightly through even the most tedious of his duties.

Two days before the wedding, Mr. Punch ordered everyone upstairs to view the completion of the new nursery quarters which would be the home of the soon-to-be married couple.  The household brimmed with excitement.

Until the front bell rang.

Did you miss Chapters 1-337 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back on Monday for Chapter 339.  We'll be taking a brief hiatus from the usual Saturday chapter, but the rest of the site will be up as usual.  Thanks for reading and "see" you Monday.

The Art of Play: The Arthur William Ford Punch, 1937

Mr. Punch Figure
Made in 1937 by Arthur Quisto
Used by Arthur William Ford
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This puppet figure of Mr. Punch is one of a set which was used by Punchman Arthur William Ford (1901-1974) who was known professionally as “Professor Gordon Bavister.” The figures were purchased by Ford in 1937 and were made by the master puppet-maker Arthur Quisto (1882-1960).

The glove puppet features a hand-painted and carved wooden face with inset blue glass eyes. He wears Punch’s traditional conical hat, tunic and breeches, however, he has been outfitted in a ruddy orange as opposed to the usual bright red.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Fred Tickner’s “Hangman” from Punch & Judy, 1975

Jack Ketch
Fred Tickner, 1875
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Here’s another puppet by the great Punch & Judy man and puppet maker, Fred Tickner. From his group made in 1975, we see “Jack Ketch, the hangman.” 

This puppet comes with his wooden gallows and rope. A glove puppet, jack features a hand-carved and painted face and hands. His head is adorned with brown artificial fur hair. Jack’s character is immediately recognizable. Fred Tickner had a mastery of representing the personalities of his characters. His celebrated work continues to influence puppet makers to this day. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Padding

"How much of this is you and how much of this is the dress?"

Image: Portrait of Margherita Paleologo, Creator: Giulio Romano (Rome c. 1499-Mantua 1546) (artist), Creation Date: c.1531, Materials: Oil on panel, Provenance: Gerard Reynst, Amsterdam; acquired by the States of Holland and West Friesland for presentation to Charles II, 1660, Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection, Original Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

You know you want to have a Bertie Dog mug, tee-shirt, tote bag or water bottle. You know you do. So, take a look at our 
online store. 

Unusual Artifacts: A Swiss Music Box Pendant, 1805-1810

"Musical Box" Pendant
Gold, Enamel, Rose-Cut Diamonds, Pearls
Switzerland, 1805-1810
The Victoria & Albert Museum

At first glance, this masterpiece of enameled gold, rose-cut diamonds and pearls with its delicate floral pattern and alluring blue color-scheme appears to be a brilliant and magnificent pendant in the shape of a harp—which it is. However, it’s much more than that. When you study it further, you begin to wonder why it comes with a matching key.

It’s then that you realize that the key is used to wind the piece and that it is, in fact, a small music box meant to be worn as a jewel.

Made in Switzerland between 1805 and 1810, this is the height of ingenuity, combining Swiss sensibilities with stunning French design.

History's Runway: The Lady Cowdray Mantua Gown, 1740-1746

This and all related images from The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the Seventeenth Century, a “mantua” was, ostensibly, a loose gown. As the decades passed, the garment became more stylized and, but the mid Eighteenth Century, the term “mantua” referred to an over-gown or robe which was worn over stays, heavy petticoats and stomachers. The mantua was, by this time, essentially worn in the Royal Court. Examples from the Eighteenth Century, such as the one we see here, show that these over-gowns were often extremely overdone and proportioned almost ridiculously. Still, they were the height of elegance and were truly the most fashionable article a woman could wear in the French and English Royal Courts.

Let’s examine this example of a mantua from the V&A. This would have been worn by a woman of aristocratic birth to show the Royal Family that her own family also possessed maximum wealth and and understanding of the fashionable arts. The opulence of a lady’s mantua was a direct indication of her family’s rank, power and financial standing.

This example contains almost ten pounds of weight from silver thread alone. The silver has been worked into an elaborate “Tree of Life” design. The train is signed “Rec'd of Mdme Leconte by me Magd. Giles.” “Leconte” is a name long associated with Huguenot embroideresses working in London between 1710 and 1746.

The mantua is composed of the over-gown, petticoat and fabric stomacher—all made of silk embroidered with real silver thread. Evidence of colored silk thread beneath the silver indicates that the textile was changed midway through in order to introduce the more aristocratic element of precious metals. Seven breadths of the textile create the wide skirt which, at its widest point is six feet across, filled out by a series of side hoops.

The gown has been altered. In the 1920s, the back seams were repeatedly taken in and let out in order to adapt the mantua for use as a fancy dress costume. Upon acceptance to the V&A, the mantua was relined and the damage from these Twentieth Century alterations was repaired.

Bertie's Pet-itations: Found in Translation

Here's Bertie's weekly opportunity to share his ideas for creating our new "Beautiful Age."  Bertie's advice, I'm sure, can be applied to many different areas of our lives.

And, so, I happily hand the computer over to him.

Bertie says:

I like it when you talk to me.  Even if I don't know all the words, I like to be included.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 337

Chapter 337

"Miss Lennie,"  Violet burst into the drawing room.  

Punch, Robert, Lennie and Speaight looked up at her.

"Violet," Speaight grumbled.  "It's not proper for a lady's maid to run into a drawing room, especially when she's shouting at the top of her lungs.  Furthermore, you've forgotten to refer to Lady Fallbridge as 'My Lady,' or 'Your Ladyship.'  Additionally, His Grace, His Lordship and Lady Fallbridge are just about to settle in for tea."

"Speaight,"  Lennie smiled.  "We can hardly remember, Lord Colinshire and I, our new titles. There will be a period of adjustment for all of us."

"Certainly, Speaight."  Robert nodded.

"Now, then, what's got ya tearin' in here like this, Violet?"  Punch asked.

"I didn't mean to.  Only this package just come from Garrard's for Her Ladyship.  Charles received it and gave it to me for Lady Fallbridge."

"Garrard's?"  Lennie's eyes widened.  "I didn't order anything."

"I should say not."  Robert glanced at Punch who was frowning.

"I do know better, brother dear."  Lennie smiled.

Punch's smile replaced his scowl.  "Oh well, just 'cause I got somethin' o' a rivalry with them blokes at Garrard's don't mean other folk can't buy from 'em."

"After all, you're hardly a commercial jeweler."  Lennie nodded.  "Only Their Majesties have been granted with immediate access to your genius."

"Oh, bah."  Punch laughed.  "You don't gotta soothe me.  Open your package."

"But, I didn't order anything."

"My Lady, it don't mean that someone else didn't order somethin' for you."  Violet squealed excitedly.

"Go on."  Punch gestured to Violet.  "Vi, give her ladyship the box.  She may be aloof 'bout it, but the rest o' us wanna see."

"I can't imagine what it is."  Lennie shook her head.

"Well, easy 'nough to find out."  Punch urged.

"Violet,"  Speaight interrupted.  "Shall we leave the masters in private?"

Violet looked pleadingly at Mr. Speaight.

"Violet may stay, Speaight."  Lennie nodded.

"Very well."  Speaight sighed his slight disapproval.  "However, Violet, don't make a nuisance of yourself."  With that, he stepped out of the drawing room.

Lennie carefully opened the paper-wrapped package to reveal a small box of red leather stamped in gold with Garrard's mark.

"There must be some sort of mistake..."  Lennie shook her head.

"No mistake, Lennie."  Robert smiled.

"This can't possibly be for me."

"It was sent to Lady Fallbridge, My Lady."  Violet nodded.

"Go on and open it,"  Robert urged.

Lennie opened the box to reveal a brooch of gold scrolls set with six jewels.

Her eyes widened.

"Well?"  Punch leaned in.

" looks a bit like your ring."  Lennie mumbled.

"That it does."  Punch grinned.  "Don't ya know what it is?"

"It's a brooch."  Lennie answered softly.

"But, what it means?"  Punch pressed.

Lennie looked up blankly.

"Them gems.  A ruby, an emerald, a garnet, an amethyst, another ruby and a diamond."  Punch smiled.  "Spells 'regard.'  Ya know, like me ring spells 'dearest.'"

"There's a card in the top o' the box, My Lady."  Violet pointed.

Lennie nodded and carefully removed the card.  She looked at it and blushed.  "It's from Matthew."

"You don't say?"  Robert teased.

Lennie shook her head.  "I can't accept this."

"And why not?"  Robert asked.

"Yeah, why not?"  Punch added.

"It's too...too..."

"It's what a gentleman does, Lennie."  Robert interrupted.

"But, I've never...."  

"It's about time that you do."  Robert nodded.

"What does it..."

"He just wants you to know how he feels, Lennie."  Punch explained.

"Should I send him something?"

"Oh, no, My Lady."  Violet shook her head.

"Perhaps just an invitation to dinner."  Punch smiled.

"Now?"  Lennie looked nervous.

"Not now."  Robert chuckled.  "But, in coming days.  You might right him a note, letting him know you received his gift and, then, extend an invitation."

Lennie nodded.

"It's too sweet."  Violet beamed.  "Shall I take it up to your room, Your Ladyship?"

"Not yet."  Lennie shook her head.  "I'd like to..."

Violet nodded.  "I understand."  She grinned.  "If you'll excuse me, I'll go prepare your gown for tonight's dinner."

"Yes."  Lennie answered absently.

Violet hurried off.

Lennie looked up at Punch and Robert, tears forming in her eyes.  "My whole life, I was just a girl like Violet, ostensibly.  I always thought my lot in life was to serve people, to look after people."

"Now is the time for someone to look after you, Lennie."  Robert replied.

"Sure, it is."  Punch agreed.  "It's time, Lennie.  Roger's back in his rooms.  He's bein' taken care of.  And, now, Robert and me...well, we want to see ya happy, we do.  Seems Matthew does, too.  You might let 'im."

"I might."  Lennie answered thoughtfully.

"And, if not 'im."  Punch smiled.  "Some other lucky gent."

"Oh..."  Lennie looked away.

"And, why not?"  Robert interjected.  "You are the Belle of Belgrave Square."

Did you miss Chapters 1-336 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 338.